HCaldwell:On . . .


What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On putting pictures on this blog

Blogger just made it rather easy to put pictures on here. I won’t put pictures here. Too much trouble to take and post them. I haven’t even taken the time to figure out how to post blog links here. But just this once, I thought I would try to put a few pictures here to illustrate two earlier posts.

This is the cat who hates clean dishes.
I talked about her in "On the cat and the dishwasher."

This is my pickle lamp from "On taking a ceramics class".

This is my clock that hangs in the bathroom.

This is my saucer I made for used tea bags.

Monday, June 27, 2005

On conversational abbreviations

At one point in my checkered past, I taught speech communications. My favorite units in those Speech 101 sections, dealt with non-verbal communications. I would cite a study that asserted that as much as ninety percent of our face-to-face communications with one another were paralanguage (non-verbal). Words made up only about ten percent. Pauses, pitch, rate, and visual cues made up the overwhelming majority of our “meaning” when we spoke to each other.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we apes do need our visual and non-verbal cues to really tell what someone is saying. Bloggers, chatters, and those poor sick devils addicted to instant messaging are at a real disadvantage. I have been following several blog threads lately. Amazingly, there are a lot of comments posted that are only there to clarify an earlier misunderstood comment. By the time you reach the end of a comment thread, it is like the old party game “telephone”. You may have started with “War of the Worlds”, but you end with “Worms Eat the Dead Squirrels.”

The rise of emoticons and Internet slang (abbreviations) are a natural consequence of the limited non-verbal error checking that keyboard communications allows. We need some clues to know if we are communicating the correct emotions. Morse code operators have used “hihi” as an abbreviation for laughter for many, many years. (Hihi is faster to send than haha, more dots with fewer dashes. Who knew?). We need to know not only what someone is saying, but also “how” he or she is saying it.

I find emoticons to be confusing. I never did well with those “See The Hidden Sailboat” types of puzzles. Emoticons look like poor punctuation to me. I don’t really understand what ;-0 is supposed to mean. Someone closing one eye while opening his or her mouth really wide doesn’t mean anything to me. I would not be enlightened by this expression on a person’s face. I would be frightened and would try to summon medical assistance for that person.

Universally understood abbreviation could be helpful, if they were specific enough to mirror real world non-verbal cues. LOL is bit too broad. Laugh Out Loud could encompass anything from a baby’s giggle to a “Phantom of the Opera” maniacal scream. I have a few ideas for more specific abbreviations that might more closely mirror face-to-face conversations.

(FHSU) Feet Hurt Shifting Uncomfortably

(CEPTIC) Can’t Even Pretend That I Care

(LCB) Loud Creepy Breathing

(NT) Noticeable Twitch

(RBBES) Runaway Bride Bug Eyed Stare

(LPFBHS) Long Pause, Followed By Heavy Sigh

(IASMB) I Am Scratching My Butt

(IASCWYBIALATDTFAWTE) I Am Still Conversing With You But I Am Looking Around Trying Desperately To Find A Way To Escape

(LPBW) Long Pauses Between Words

(TSTBU) Too Southern To Be Understood

(TCTBU) Too Canadian To Be Understood

(TNYTGAD) Too New York To Give A Damn

(DOM) Drooling On Myself

(TOMOFAFOBT) Tripped Over My Own Feet And Fell Onto Buffet Table

(SCBMT) Salad Caught Between My Teeth

(CCS) Cologne Causing Seizures

(QBIN) Quiet Belch Into Napkin

(YASAITIAHMFSLDS) You Are Such An Idiot That I Am Hiding My Face So Laughter Doesn’t Show

(AOPD) Air Of Polite Disinterest

(MQTPOYGPS) Mentally Questioning The Purity Of Your Gene Pool Stare

(IANRLG) I Am Not Really Listening Gaze

(SATG) Squinting At The Glare

(RSM) Rendered Slack Mouthed

(SMICS) So Mad I Could Spit

(IASN) I Am Spitting Now

(ttftbu) TalkingTooFastToBeUnderstood

(STC) Standing Too Close

(PYOTSWMF) Poking You On The Shoulder With My Finger

(MOMC) Mustard On My Chin

(LOW) Loud Obnoxious Whine

(RBH) Really Bad Hair

(MATS) Moaning At The Stupidity

(SBTS) Stunned By The Stupidity

(RMSI) Rigor Mortis Setting In

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. – George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On why I may cancel my newspaper subscription

The sidebar headlines on the front page of the paper this morning were “Communicating with the dead may be possible” and “Witches tend to be enchanting in popular culture.”

I have read these headlines before. They were in bold type on the black and white ad page in the back of a comic book that I was reading. I was twelve. "Journalism has certainly come a long way since those days", I thought dripping with sarcasm. I can hardly wait for tomorrow’s edition of the paper. Surely, then I will learn about x-ray glasses that will let me see through clothing. Or read a biting expose about the fun and profit involved in raising chinchillas. Perhaps, I, too, can have an exciting career operating heavy machinery.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On my drive home

It was hot and dry today. Traffic was slow. When it is hot and dry things seem to be in a sharper focus than is normal. Several things caught my attention.

There was a car parked along the side of the road. I start thinking about what the back-story might be concerning that car. Did it break down and the driver was getting a lift somewhere to get it towed? Was it parked there while the owner was taking a few moments to fish in the creek below? Did the driver just get fed up with sitting in traffic and the job that it made that daily commute necessary? Did he/she just pull over and abandon the car, then and there, to wander off into the underbrush in search of a new life? I sort of like the last one.

I was studying the “Do Not Enter” sign on the expressway ramp. On a red field, there is a large white rectangle between the words “Do Not” and the word “Enter”. It looks just like one of those fill-in-the-blank signs that you can buy for things like garage sales. I couldn’t come up with any clever word or word combination that seemed to fit neatly in the blank. The best I could do was “Do Not ‘even try to’ Enter”.

There was a big flashing orange construction sign. It alternated between saying “Slow Down Now” and “New Pattern Ahead”. Déjà vu. I had those same lines in a fortune cookie once.

Friday, June 24, 2005

On effective publicity

During my sophomore year of college, my roommate and I won the prestigious “Strangest Room” award in our dorm. In addition, I was voted “Weirdest Person”. Word was that I won by a landslide. I don’t know if I was really the Weirdest Person in that dorm. It is most likely that I just had a good publicist. My roommate enjoyed and was very good at telling stories at my expense. Since many of the stories involved me being drunk, I was never really in a position to judge the accuracy of his narratives.

His favorite story involved me coming back to the room after a party and deciding that I needed to study for a Psychology test that I had the next day. Lying on my back, I proceeded to hold the book above my face and try to read it. During this process, I would nod off and drop the book onto my face thereby, waking myself up and starting the cycle all over again. After this happen a number of times, I suddenly hurled the book across the room and in a slurry of words declared, “this stooopid book is broken”. I, then, passed out.

I can’t say that I recall this incident. Then again, if it’s true, I probably wouldn’t remember it, would I?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

On splendor in the dead grass

Irrational habits are incredibly powerful! We have not had any significant rainfall here in about two months. The daytime temperatures have stayed in the upper eighties to upper nineties. My neighbor, with clocklike precision, mows his lawn every Wednesday evening after work. His grass has been dead or dormant for several weeks now. It hasn’t grown a single millimeter since the last weekly cutting yet, this evening; there he was grooming the dusty brown rug that carpets his front lawn.

I have a few habits like that are almost impossible to ignore. I cannot fall asleep at night until I check to make sure that all the doors are locked. Even when we are guests in someone else’s home, I have to sneak a surreptitious look at the locks on their front door before going to bed. I don’t think of myself as being superstitious, yet if I don’t check the doors I will stay awake all night with an eerie sense of foreboding.

It is not unlike my flashlight habit. I cannot travel without packing a flashlight in my suitcase. I have a strong, but irrational belief that the one time that I do not pack a flashlight will be the one time when a flashlight will be desperately needed. Having a flashlight along on the trip is my talisman against ever needing to have a flashlight along on the trip.

From my dad, I acquired the strange habit of having to have a bag of tools in the trunk of my car at all times. Even though most problems with modern cars are almost impossible to fix with a screwdriver along the side of the road, I can’t help it. I know in my heart that if I go anywhere without those tools, the car will surely break down.

As I sit here on the porch, typing on the laptop, watching him mow and drinking my tea, I figure that my neighbor must have a similarly quirky notion about mowing his lawn. As long as he ritualistically cuts it each and every Wednesday evening, no meteors will strike his house. No sinkholes will swallow his trees. His deck won’t sink into the sea. Invading hordes of locusts won’t consume his petunias. His pointy-headed lawn gnomes won’t spring to life and go on a murderous rampage with their little hoes. I find lawn gnomes to be a bit creepy. Perhaps, I should mow more often.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

On things that I will never see in my lifetime

A reality show entitled: “I Want To Work At Wal-Mart”

A politician who actually lives on the minimum wage

Suburban Strip Mall Preservation Society

Over funded public schools

A Social Security check

A cure for stupid

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

On gambling

There are a lot of gambling options available these days. Everything from a Vegas weekend vacation to a lotto ticket is within easy reach. I would like to be a gambler. Unfortunately, I am really bad at it. I never win. Not even once. I have never won a contest, had a winning scratch off ticket, purchased a winning bingo card or become a multi-millionaire because of a lotto ticket. I suck at gambling. More to the point, I suck at winning anything while gambling.

There are and have been people in my family who always seem to win something. Green lawn furniture painted with beer logos from a store promotion contest. One-dollar scratch off tickets will yield fifteen dollars at the gas station. Large stuffed pink panthers fall from the claw machine at the movie theatre. The best I have ever done is to have the underside of my bottle cap say, “Sorry, Try Again” instead of “You Are One Unlucky SOB, By The Way I Urinated In This Bottle.”

I am probably the only person in the world who is afraid of going to Las Vegas and gambling. I fear that I would mistakenly bet one of my vital organs on the crap table and end up leaving town without my liver. I am not so sure that that is something that should “Stay in Vegas”.

There should be a reverse “Pity The Poor Losers Lottery” for those of us who never win anything. We would each be paid a dollar for entering the contest. Then a number would be drawn and only that person would lose. The rest of us would each get a million dollars as long as we swear to never gamble again and to give up our livers only after we die.

Monday, June 20, 2005

On old friends

At what point do friends, past or present, actually become old friends? I suppose you could peg it to their chronological age, but I have several longtime friends who are younger than I am. Should it be determined by using my age? That would make all of my friends, “old friends”. That hardly seems fair. There are several friends who I was actually in contact with for a relatively short period of my life. Yet, they seem to have a permanent place in my definition of friendship.

I recently had the unexpected pleasure of chatting with some old friends. I have not seen some of them for a very long time. It amazed me how quickly I re-discovered the little things that I liked about them. On Saturday, I chatted on the phone with a woman who was my best friend when I was a senior in high school. I don’t think I’ve spoken with her since she and her mom came halfway across the country to attend my wedding decades ago.

My family had moved to a different city during the summer before my senior year. It was going to be truly lousy to end high school as a “new kid” senior. I met her soon after enrolling in my new high school. Luckily for me, she and eventually, her whole family decided to “adopt” me. Since she knew everyone in school and everyone knew her, it made it a lot easier to find a place in my new school’s social scheme. It turned out to be a better than expected senior year for me with lots of good times and great memories. She was a friend in the very best sense of that word.

At first, our phone conversation seemed a bit strained. It didn’t help that we talked in the morning. We are both still night people. I could sense us trying to find the old rhythms. The easy exchanges of the past had become lost in the haze of years. As we caught up with the news of our respective families, she happened to laugh. “Yeah, now I remember”. I always liked that laugh.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On Father’s Day

The large sign hangs from the ceiling of our local department store. It breathlessly proclaims, “We Know Just What Dad Wants! We’ve Got It!” It is positioned directly over a large table that is covered with a colorful assortment of women’s underwear.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

On laughing at myself

I do not trust anyone who cannot laugh at his/her self. In reading the biographies of some well-known historical villains, being “self serious” seems to be a common trait. If you take yourself so seriously that you cannot bear to have a laugh at your own expense, then you are a dangerous person in my estimation. Bad guys always seem to be above humorous self-deprecation. Everyone (I hope) has moments of singular silliness. I think it is healthy to enjoy these little episodes of low comedy. I revel in my personal moments of everyday slapstick. Here is a list of some of my recent “silly little moments”.

I had taken the empty trashcans out to the curb and left the full ones sitting in the garage.

I sealed an envelope without putting the letter inside, but I did enclose the stamp.

I stepped out of the shower and then discovered that my head was still covered with shampoo bubbles.

I walked around for hours with my shirt on inside out and backwards. I kept wondering why it didn’t seem to fit right and I couldn’t find the front pocket.

I poked myself in the eye while trying to put my glasses on.

I spent all day waiting for something to come in the mail and then realized it was a Sunday.

I tried to pour milk into an upside down glass.

I unload and put away all the dishes from a dishwasher that hadn’t been run yet.

I put a CD in upside down and then unplugged all the cables trying to figure out what was wrong with the stereo.

I tried to make the wrong remote work on the wrong device twice in one day and after having changed the batteries three times.

I wondered why my tea was taking so long to brew and then realized that I had not heated the water in the kettle before I had poured it into the cup.

I start the washing machine without loading it first, but after having put in the soap.

I startled myself while walking by a full-length mirror. This caused me to do a full arms outstretched, cartoon style crash into the doorframe.

Each of these dumb things gave me, at least, a little chuckle. Some were full-bore laugh-out-louders. It would be nice to blame these on age, but they have always been a part of my life. I may be a lifelong goofball, but I am probably safe from any war crimes trials.

Friday, June 17, 2005

On odd phrases, terms, and thoughts

I heard this on television last night.

“(They) represent two opposing views that are 360 degrees from each other.”

Pardon my math, but I believe that two viewpoints that are 360 degrees from each other would actually be the same viewpoint. Did they mean to say that the views were 180 degrees out of phase so that the sum was 360/0 degrees? If so, wouldn’t the viewpoints cancel each other out? Why bother to listen?

I read in the paper.

“…(the victim) died from a fatal gunshot wound.”

If he had survived the “fatal” gunshot wound, then I would be very impressed. I had never really noticed it before, but I have heard this phrase used a number of times. It does seem like an odd way to say it.

I saw this on a sign at a construction site.

Danger - Safety Zone!

As opposed to the more common, "Not To Worry - Deadly Hazard Zone!"

This was also in our morning paper.

“…(the legal standard) used is a “preponderance of evidence” which is a lesser standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

If you look up the words “preponderance” and “reasonable”, then you would have to conclude that a preponderance of evidence would by definition certainly overwhelm any “reasonable” doubts. Why isn’t it the other way around?

A local hospital advertises.

“We offer the finest in ambulatory care.”

It seems like a strange way to describe non-emergency medical care. Can you arrive in an ambulance or do you have to walk there? Do they help you walk? Or do they simply care deeply about the way you walk? Do the doctors and nurses move in a leisurely amble while providing your ambulatory care? Does not caring where you go when you need non-emergency medical care an example of ambulatory ambivalence?

I heard this on a televised golf tournament.

"...that ball just fell sideways up the hill."

The PGA had apparently suspended the Laws of Gravity pending a decision by the Rules Committee.

This was written on the side of an orange juice container.

“99 and 44/100 % pure”

Ok, so what is the other .56 %? Residue from uranium processing? Pureed pig bladders? Discarded urine samples walked over from the ambulatory care center?

I heard this on a commercial.

"Listen now for your free offer."

I'm glad I didn't have to pay to listen to my offer. I haven't been to the bank yet.

I have to go now. They are describing what happened this morning on the noontime edition of the evening news.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On being easily amused

If you go to the Blogger Edit User Profile page and scroll down to the bottom, there is a Random Question option. Leave your original answer, but check the “Give me a new question” box. Then re-save your profile. You can get some wonderfully absurd question/answer combinations. I do like to spoil my inner child.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On unfair journalism

I should never be allowed near the computer when I am angry.

As a rule, I do not deal with subjects here that anyone could really care about. I am going to make an exception. A commentator on a “fair and balanced” news show was denigrating those who served on the MJ jury. The attack was quite personal including a comment about needing to require an IQ test for this jury. I have served on a jury. It was a difficult process that a group of everyday people took very seriously. We tried hard to be fair and “do what was right”. To vilify the people on a jury, simply because they make a decision that you do not agree with, is incredibly unfair and wrong. I was disgusted. Say you disagree. Say that you would have done it differently as a juror, but don’t attack those who had to sit through it all and struggle to make that final decision. Shame.

Personally, I don’t know that I agree with the verdict. However, I wasn’t there. I didn’t sit through weeks of testimony and argument. I didn’t spend six days in a closed jury room with eleven other souls reaching down deep to determine what is “truth” and what is “lie”. I may or may not agree with the decision, but I have the utmost respect for those who have to make the decision.

“The sword of the law should never fall but on those whose guilt is so apparent as to be pronounced by their friends as well as foes.” – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On bad gifting

I read a post/comments (on “More on the Heat”/Set Free at msongbird.blogspot.com) that criticized the gift giving abilities of husbands. At first, I was indignant. I wanted to write a scathing reply. I wanted to defend the husbandly culture from this partisan attack.

Then the part of my brain that controls sanity kicked into gear. Like a kid caught in the act, I had to look down, mumble, and scuff my feet on the floor. I am the world’s worst at buying gifts, especially buying gifts for my wife. You know the joke about the guy who bought a waffle iron for his wife’s birthday- that was me. I know for a fact that I am the origin of several other bad gifting urban legends that are told when and wherever wives congregate.

When we first got together, I could mentally fall back on the excuse that we didn’t have much money so my choices were limited. It wasn’t my fault. It was simply economics. Unfortunately, the more money I had to spend, the more glaringly bad my choices looked. The bigger the gun, the bigger the mess you make when you miss the target. In my case, the misses are usually on the order of several miles.

When we were first married, I bought her an engraved hammer for a Christmas gift. In my defense, I was young and it was a very good hammer (a thirteen ounce well-polished model with a leather grip and excellent tempering). I tried a few times to purchase clothing for her. This has always been a disastrous choice. It usually a.) doesn’t come close to fitting her b.) is horrifically ugly or c) is “Oh, my god!” monumentally inappropriate. I should know better. Except for my suits, I don’t even buy my own clothing. When I start looking like an extra from the “Mad Max” movies, my wife goes out and buys me some new clothes. She slips them into my closet and for the sake of my families’ good name, disposes of the worst of my tattered and stained garments. I have had some limited success purchasing jewelry. Whenever I find something that doesn’t cause her smile to have pained overtones, I latch onto it like a lamprey onto a shark. For the next several gift buying occasions, I stick to this winning formula. Unfortunately, this soon wears thin (how many pairs of marcasite earrings can one woman wear) and I am once again wandering the shops in search of that elusive “not really, really stupid” gift for her. I have tried buying electronic gadgets for her. It is a strategy that works well with the kids. I carefully shop around and find the latest, greatest, neatest, with-the-most-bells-and-whistles model available. A three-volume user manual accompanies it. It and its three-volume user manual usually end up occupying an out of the way drawer within the week. Several are still encased in their sealed plastic wrapping years later. Even the animal world is against me. If I buy her flowers, the cats eat them and then throw up on the couch. I have tried spa gift certificates. I ended up purchasing a day of painful medical procedures, because the brochures descriptions were so far outside of my frame of reference.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that my beloved partner is a gifted gift giver (trying saying “gifted gift giver” three times fast). She can walk into a store and come out ten minutes later with the most unique and thoughtful items. It takes me an hour to figure out where they sell the gift certificates. Her gift-wrapping is tasteful and elegant. My gift boxes would be better served if I rolled them in breadcrumbs and deep fat fried them.

She has, however, graciously taught me how to include the one perfect accessory in all of my presents to her- the store receipt.

“Marriages are best of dissimilar material.” – Theodore Parker

Monday, June 13, 2005

On working drawings

I had a drafting teacher who used to instruct us on how to draft construction drawings. He used to say that the best way to figure out how to build something was to start by figuring out how you would go about tearing it apart when you were done with it. This must be the same philosophy that goes into the planning of a celebrity wedding.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On buying appliances

Why is it that appliance stores can no longer display the real price of an item? Now, you have to have a magnifying glass and a one thousand watt quartz halogen lamp in order to read all the fine print beneath the large type, apparently mythical, “price”. There is usually a long list of disclaimers and notices about the types of rebates that you must send for in order to actually purchase the item at that elusive amount. That price magically materializes only after you have completed the modern equivalent of Hercules’ seven labors.

I have no luck, at all, with rebate offers. I usually miss some “fine print” condition and my rebate claim is refused with a post card months later. Sometimes, it is because that, at some point in time, a member of my family has already received a rebate for model number 77283929938-ksdl82993839-black. So, my model number 32392938182-slkkd3892038-blue is excluded from the rebate offer. I guess I should know the model numbers of every appliance ever purchased by any member of my household within the past decade, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. One of the other things that hangs me up is that I forget to include some specified UPC code, store receipt, rebate receipt, packaging label, three by five index card, or mummified spider monkey paw in the rebate envelope. Sometimes, I haven’t completely filled out the request form which wanted to know my age, birth date, address, income level, education, job history, major surgeries, level of involvement in incidents of primate amputation, and the model numbers of the five most recently purchased blue home appliances. The level of intrusiveness exhibited by the Spanish Inquisition was less than what I have to put up with in order to get a five-dollar check.

I can only take so much rejection. From now on, I am boycotting any store that hides the price of their goods under a blizzard of rebate fluff. I’m sure that retailers the world over are quaking in fear, but the spider monkeys are doing handstands.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

On a sore back

I am re-scaping the land in my yard. Part of that process has involved moving several cubic yards of dirt from my front yard to my backyard with a wheelbarrow. I had a friend once who thought that a cubic yard had nine cubic feet in it rather than twenty-seven cubic feet. When he ordered mulch to be delivered to his driveway, he carefully calculated his needs and then added an extra yard or two for good measure. He ordered twenty-four cubic yards of mulch. He was shocked when two large trucks dumped a literal mountain on mulch on his driveway. He put it a foot thick everywhere on his flowerbeds and in huge mounds around his trees. He put it everyplace that he could think of and then ended up begging the neighbors to come and cart most of it away.

I know how many cubic feet are in a cubic yard. My back holds mute testament to how many cubic feet are in a cubic yard. As is my way, I overdid it. I can’t help it. I am old enough to know better, but it is my nature to dive head first into any task. Pacing myself seems sort of wimpy. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

So, tonight I have a very, very sore back. It hurts to sit. It hurts to stand. Lying down might be an option, if I were content to never rise again.

Friday, June 10, 2005

On a long hot day

It has been in the mid-nineties for the past several days with eighty to ninety percent humidity. This is lousy weather for doing anything except melting. I am not a fan of winter cold either, but at least you can put on a heavier coat and feel somewhat comfortable. When it comes to the heat, you can only take off so much. The muggy air hangs on you like a blanket even when you fully undressed. Since polite society and good taste requires some clothing, you are soggy from the moment you step outside.

The only good thing about weather like this is that I don’t mind washing the car when I get home. I have washed the car twice in the last three days. If this heat keeps up, I’m afraid that I may take the finish off.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

On the moments just before a storm starts

I have always enjoyed being outdoors in the few minutes just before a big storm starts. Thunderstorms are the best with the thunder crashes, wind blowing and the lightning flashes. It is an exhilarating time to take a brisk walk. Like a game of meteorological chicken, the trick is to enjoy the moment and then get in before you get soaking wet.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On bumper stickers

I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car. I have never had a bumper sticker on any car that I have ever owned. Some of the bumper stickers (bs) that I see on other cars are quite clever. I do enjoy the little chuckles while driving. There are, at least, three reasons why I have never put one on my vehicles.

1) I would rather that other people pay attention to my erratic use of the turn signal and brakes. Puzzling over some cryptic message on my car could make the term “bumper” become prophetic.

2) The glue that is used to hold the bs on is amazingly tenacious. I don’t think you can remove it without also taking off a layer of paint, chrome, or plastic. (Why is it that bumper stickers (bss’?) can stay adhered to a car in all weather conditions for years on end, but the soles come unglued from my sneakers after about two weeks? Someone should get these guys together so that they can compare notes on the appropriate use of adhesives.)

3) If I really cared about some noble institution or cause, is the butt-end of my car the most appropriate place to display my lofty sentiments? (See On why we identify so strongly with our cars on this blog.) I know that many people display designer names on the rear of their pants. If I, however, were to feel the need to name by posterior; I think I could better than “Ralph”.

I don’t have any tattoos either. Several times in my life, I considered getting one. I have admired several that I have seen on others. The problem was that I could never pick out a design that I knew I would still like five years later. Styles and tastes are fickle. What if you could only style your hair once? How would you choose the look that you would have for the rest of your life? There are some poor souls out there who would enter the boardroom today sporting mullets. That’s the rub with tattoos. I would want to still be happy with it many years later. It was also hard to find an image that would still look good when it (I) became wrinkled. A flag might be wrinkle safe. It would just look like the wind that was holding it straight out had died down to a light rippling breeze.

Placement and having to get stuck with sharp metal objects were also major obstacles that I could not overcome. Ralph and I don’t like needles.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

On looking over my daily read blog list

I have been reading blogs for a while and only recently started writing this one. I went through the blog links that I keep in my "daily" read folder today. I also keep an "occasional" read folder and a "desperately bored" read folder. I wanted to see if there were any patterns or subconscious trends to my choices. This was an embarrassingly self-absorbed activity, but I was bored while waiting for the air conditioner service guy to show up at the house. I hate waiting for service people. I am almost relieved when something goes out of warranty so I can just fix it myself. I digress.

I did notice a few patterns to the blogs that I read regularly...

Women write the overwhelming majority.
Most of them use a simple format without a lot of html bells and whistles.
They usually deal with aspects of everyday life, past and present (as opposed to something like politics, sports, or business).
Most are easy to read (
I don't have to puzzle out arcane acronyms or creative spelling.)
Many of the writers like to "play" with their words (
They usually aren't that serious with their subject matter either.)


About a quarter are in a language which I cannot read (I like to look at the pictures and try to figure out the captions. No, none are pornographic. Although that would make figuring out the captions a lot easier.)
Their locations vary widely by country and region.

Inferred from subject matter and profiles...

The writers vary even more widely by age, profession, background, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, politics, and/or beliefs.


From what I can tell, none of them are written by someone who would be my demographic match.

What does this tell me? Is there a secret blog world for my type that I haven't found yet? Is the blogiverse so embarassed by our rantings that we are hidden away in our own virtual ghetto? Has my type simply become extinct? Am I the last of the dinosaurs? I had no clue. No one bothered to tell me. I never got the memo!

Monday, June 06, 2005

On an evil fantasy

We have an emergency announcement system in our town. There is a siren and then a computer generated voice comes on and says something like “this is a test of the emergency announcement system”. The speakers must be gigantic, because it is very loud and seems to come from everywhere at once. I have this fantasy about accessing the computer files that store the announcements.

(Loud Siren)
I see what you’re doing there. Have you no shame? Yeah, you there... in the car. Stop that right now!”

I bet you could hear the screeching car tires in the next state.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

On having to write a senior paper

I like going to school. I have a lifelong addiction to learning new stuff. Whenever I get the chance (whenever the work and family schedule has some flexibility), I try to take at least a couple of classes at a nearby college, adult ed-center, or university. I think the mind is like a shark; if it stops moving, it dies. Occasionally, I can even cobble together enough credits to earn a few more initials. Mostly, I like taking classes on anything that looks interesting at the moment just to keep the water moving past my gills.

After several years of part-time coursework at several institutions, I had accidentally accumulated enough credit hours to graduate with a degree in communication electronics. This wasn’t really the initial goal, it just happened that way. When my department chairman called me into his office to look over my transcripts and see if I was missing any requisite courses, he noted that I had not written a senior paper. I am senior. I have written papers, but I couldn’t disagree with that particular observation. He explained that a year earlier the English Department had gone to the Dean of Instruction and complained that students earning degrees in the technology area weren’t demonstrating adequate writing skills. In order to make sure that they could “compete in the workplace”; they had instituted a senior paper to be written by each graduating student before the degree could be granted. It would be graded by the respective Technology Department head for accuracy and by the English Department (I’m sure they got more money for this task!) for style and composition. He, then, handed me a sheet that dictated the length, style guide, and topic areas.

It would have been a bad pun to have referred to me as a graduating senior. I had spent years working in and around academia. I had cut my workplace teeth on “PhD’s With An Attitude”. Over that span of time, I have probably written enough papers, reports, proposals, and assessments to fill a small, but boring library. Writing a short formal paper on developments in the field of communication electronics was not a daunting assignment. On the other hand, I had never seen a job description for any solder jockey position that asked the applicant to submit “a novelette that is representative of your current creative endeavors”.

My department chair was no happier about this requirement than I. So, since he was the only one who had to vouch for the paper’s substance, I proposed a harmless bit of civil disobedience. I would write my senior paper. In style, length, and appearance, it would conform exactly to the guidelines. In substance, it would be a red herring. His only condition was that it had to be mathematically and technically "correct". I could have an absurd topic, but I had to be able to back it up with the facts.

In that spirit, I went home, wrote, and then submitted this paper. The hardest part about writing it was convoluting the double and triple negatives in the “Future Research” section to make certain that there it had no meaning whatsoever. I have had to change some of the original formatting to make it fit into this blog’s format (the font change still screwed up some of the math formulas, ah well). If you don’t know much about electronics, it is a bit hard to follow, but trust me – it says nothing. If you do know about electronics, I tried really hard to be “correct”; please forgive me for any artistic license. In a nutshell, my contention in this paper is that the moon’s gravitational field creates a micro-miniature tide effect on near microscopic electronic components. It is a silly contention and a goofy example of the Butterfly Effect. If you end up wondering about the author and philosopher, Konigsberg, who is quoted in the introduction, look in the references. A hint, the W. stands for Woody.

Periodic Satellite Oscillations With the Resultant Gravitational Variations
and the Potential Effect on the Resonant Frequency of Tuned Inductor/Capacitor Circuits


The conceptual framework for this research is difficult to explore without including a lengthy mathematical disquisition. The basic premise involves the cyclical effects of lunar oscillations and the resulting gravitational and magnetic permutation on the reactance values of tank circuit components at resonance. In brief, as the cycle reaches perigee the decreased distance from the gravitation center of the lunar body to the circuit components can cause an increase in the longitudinal or cross sectional value of inductors. To further complicate matters, there can be a corresponding change in the distance between the conducting plates of capacitors. There is an opposite but equal change that occurs at apogee.


At the fringes of our current understanding of the Electron Theory lies a strangely exciting phenomenon. The author and philosopher, A.S. Konigsberg (1971, p. 29), wrote that
"to know a substance or an idea we must doubt it, and thus, doubting it, come to perceive the qualities it possesses in its finite state, which are truly ' in the thing itself ', or ' of the thing itself ' or of something or nothing." In that spirit, this research promises to tamper with our understanding of the linear behavior of the Series/Parallel Frequency Resonant Circuit (LC).


The concept at the heart of this idea can be inferred from a portion of Newton's Law of Gravitation that finds that the distance from the center of any body is inversely proportional to the force of gravity on that object (Rothman, 1989). This effect can be seen most dramatically in the recurring tidal bulges that cause vast swells in the oceans of this planet at the point where the earth is closest to the lunar mass (Trefil, 1984). Tuned circuit components will have a given point of their structure closer to the gravitational center of the earth’s satellite than any other single point on the component body. Although the effects of gravitational pull on a planetary body are far more evident, they could still be present at the molecular and even atomic levels. This ubiquitous fundamental force (i.e., gravity) could theoretically affect the two most basic components of a series/parallel RLC circuit, the inductor and the capacitor.

Component Effects

Inductors found in many alternating current circuits derive a major influence on their reactance values (XL) from a combination of physical characteristics as seen in the formula, L = N2mA/l. Inductor values are the result of the permeability of the core material, length, cross sectional value, and number of turns (Floyd, 1995). Of greatest interest here are those physical characteristics that could be most affected by the application of gravitational forces, length and cross sectional value. Just as the oceans of the earth and even the earth itself is stretched toward the lunar body, so too, the physical length and cross sectional value of the inductor could be influenced by these same forces. The particular changes that might occur would be determined by a variety of factors, including component orientation, mass, and the degree value of the lunar period.

Capacitors found in many alternating current circuits derive a major component of their reactance values (XC) from the relationship between plate separation, plate area, and dielectric constant [C = AEr(8.85x10-12 F/m)/d] (Floyd, 1995). Unlike inductors, there is only one physical characteristic that is likely to be affected by gravitational forces - plate separation. The precise value of the change would be determined by the orientation of the capacitor and which plate surface was closest to the lunar body at any particular point.

Tuned circuit resonance, where the effect of changes in inductive and capacitive values can be seen, is described by the formula fr = 1/(2p òLC) (Malvino, 1999). It should be apparent from this formula that changes in either or both of these variables, inductance (L) and capacitance (C), can have a profound effect on the value of circuit resonance. Since tuned resonant circuits, both series and parallel are used in a wide of variety of audio, scientific, and communication equipment, the total ohmic value of these changes cannot even be measured with our current technology.

Adding to this conundrum, the earth/moon gravitational interaction is so complex and the lunar period is so extended, approximately 2425823.5652463 seconds (sidereal) that extensive time-consuming background research will be needed to quantify the impact on circuit performance. Nonetheless, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The examination of such a complex system requires a detailed and lengthy examination (Bradbury, 1998), which has not yet begun.

Future Research

This intriguing concept cannot but fail to attract a long list of highly respected research and lab facilities that are not currently planning to undertake extensive research and development projects in this area. This list is much too long to be included here, but it is safe to say that no major private or governmental research facility could be excluded. A major research hurdle to be overcome is the difficulties inherent in measuring precise values of change found in the resonant frequency of any particular circuit due to these complex, even arcane interactions. Relativistic effects (Hawkings, 1988) and the limitations found in Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (Suplee, 1999) might place the final answers many years in the future. It is hoped that one day this research could lead to breakthroughs in areas from bioelectronics (ex. quantification of the lunar influence on emotional and mental impairments) to mathematics (ex. numerical systems to describe values many magnitudes smaller than are currently possible). As with any area of research that is so far outside of any reasoned frame of reference, there are no commercial applications for the foreseeable future.


Bradbury, R. H. (1998) The incursion dilemma: Is absence of evidence the same as evidence of absence? Paper presented to Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service Ballast Water Exchange Verification Workshop, Melbourne, March 3, 1998.
Retrieved March 21, 2002 from http://www.brs.gov.au/overview/bradbury/incursion.html.

Floyd, Thomas L. (1995). Electric Circuits Fundamentals. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. New York, NY:Bantam.

Konigsberg, Allen Stewart (e.g. W. Allen) (1971). Getting Even.
New York, NY:Warner.

Malvino, Albert Paul (1999). Electronic Principles. Westerville, OH:McGraw-Hill.

Rothman, Milton A. (1989). Discovering the Natural Laws. Mineola, NY:Doubleday.

Trefil, James S. (1984). A Scientist At The Seashore. New York, NY:Macmillan.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

On dreaming wakefulness

This incident falls into that category of “does this only happen to me?” I will wake up when the alarm goes off. After turning the alarm off, I unknowingly fall back to sleep. The insidious part is that I go into a dream where I am awake and getting ready for work. In my dream world, I am going through my usual morning routine. In the real world, I am still snoring on my pillow. This can go on for some time, until my wife shakes my shoulder and tells me that I am going to be late if I “don’t get moving”. In my dream world, it is as if someone appears out of thin air and grabs my arm. In the real world, I am startled awake and jump about a foot off the bed with my heart racing. Then I have to spend several groggy minutes sitting on the edge of the bed trying to figure where I am and why I am not already dressed. Of course, it is possible that I am only dreaming that I am sitting on the edge of the bed trying to figure out where I am…

Friday, June 03, 2005

On perspective drawing

As I understand it, traditional Western art (Post-Renaissance) used a type of perspective drawing based on a mathematical formula to create the sense of distance with the background objects being smaller than objects in the foreground. Traditional Eastern (Asian) art from roughly the same time used a different type of perspective. Objects in the background were not made to appear smaller; they were partially covered over by objects drawn in the foreground and/or positioned above them. Our eyes see this as meaning that the background objects are “behind” the foreground objects or farther away from the viewer.

There should be some universal truth to be found in this contrast. I've pondered this for a while now. I have never come up with one that wasn't silly. In art, as in life, sometimes different is just different.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

On mental imagery run amok

I posted a comment on another blog (Glory Be at glorybe55.blogspot.com) the other day concerning a literary quote. That simple act caused me to buy tickets on two different trains of thought both leaving the station at the same time. I know that there are people who think in words, I think in pictures. Most of them are crudely drawn in what appears to be crayon.

The first of my divergent mental threads had to do with the fact that on that site I had commented on a post that commented on my postings. I started to imagine what would happen if someone else commented on my comment with a post which commented on the previous two posting's comments. Someone could then comment by posting a comment about my comment on my post concerning the subsequent comment on the post mentioned in a post that commented on my posts having referred to the original posting. You get the picture (lots of arrows drawn with a red crayon, I think). The image that I got was that of a single continuous parasitic posting that twisted and turned throughout the blogiverse. I saw this huge tangled tapeworm of words infesting the intestines of the Web and growing longer by the nanosecond.

The second thought stream had a less disgusting lump floating down it. It concerned the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the subject of the aforementioned comment. Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe are two authors who have their own category in my list of favorite writers. I guess I would call this category “authors whose well-known works I don’t really care for, but whose more obscure articles and essays are favorites of mine.” They’re not usually found under that in the library catalog.

I went back and re-read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head", originally published in Graham’s Magazine, September of 1841. I believe this article was written in response to some criticism that Edgar had received due to the fact that his horror stories lacked a “moral” at their end. The subtitle for the article was “A Moral Tale”. Originally, it took me about six readings to figure out that the article was a tongue-in-cheek protest against the political and literary correctness of his day. At least that’s what I get out of it (sorry, there are no Cliff Notes available). Most people don’t associate E.A. Poe with comedy. Indeed, even reading through one of his 19th century essays requires tremendous stamina in order to cut through the dense underbrush of verbiage. However, this story about the imaginary character, Toby Dammit, has some of the cleverest word play I have ever read. This is my favorite section. When I read this passage, I can see it being performed by Larry, Moe, and Curly wearing black cutaway tailcoats, hats, and gloves (black crayon on white elementary school paper, of course).

“When he said "I'll bet you so and so," nobody ever thought of taking him up; but still I could not help thinking it my duty to put him down. The habit was an immoral one, and so I told him. It was a vulgar one–this I begged him to believe. It was discountenanced by society–here I said nothing but the truth. It was forbidden by act of Congress–here I had not the slightest intention of telling a lie. I remonstrated–but to no purpose. I demonstrated–in vain. I entreated- he smiled. I implored–he laughed. I preached–he sneered. I threatened–he swore. I kicked him–he called for the police. I pulled his nose–he blew it, and offered to bet the Devil his head that I would not venture to try that experiment again.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On when I was your age stories

It is true that your children are your parent’s revenge on you for all the things you did to make them crazy when you were a child. My kids are frighteningly smart and quick witted. They got this from their mother. They can also be little beasts who can flay the skin off a grown man in minutes with a coordinated barrage of clever, sarcastic jibes. I maintain that they got this from their mother, as well, but my claim is quickly rejected. I do fear that someday their future spouses will really hate me.

The kids learned early on that Dad would forgive minor verbal disrespect if it was done with humor and wit. In other words, if you could make Dad laugh then he wouldn't ground your butt until you were thirty. So, whenever I start to launch into a “when I was your age …” story in response to their complaints about some minor inconvenience. They immediately launch a verbal counter-strike of well-aimed one-liners that batters me into a blasted hulk. I have had to escalate this war of words with them by making my claims of parental superiority so outrageous that they are left speechless while staring at me in disgusted disbelief.

“When I was your age we had to walk FIFTEEN MILES through the snow wearing only animal skins and bunches of grass to get the newspaper from the end of the driveway…”

“You know when I was a kid we not only had to pick up our dirty clothes, but we had to haul them TWENTY MILES through the woods to the raging river. Then we had to pound them on the rocks to get them clean. All the while, watching out for the crocs, wolves, and bears who were just waiting to chew holes in our freshly laundered socks and underwear…”

“When I was your age, we didn’t have cars to take us to soccer practice. We had to cling to the side of a stampeding Wooly Mammoth with our teeth while holding onto our soccer ball with our feet. That was easy for us since the soccer field was only ten miles away instead of the FIFTY MILES through the stinking swamp where we had to travel while holding onto that same raging rabid animal in order to reach our steamy snake infested one room cave schoolhouse each morning long before dawn…”

So far this tactic has created a stalemate. However, I have no doubt that soon they will devise a fiendishly devious stratagem to overcome my temporary advantage. Once more, they will leave me broken and bloodied on the field of comedic battle. Never fear, fellow parents, I shall not falter. I know that, if my children's spouses-to-be can put up with them for long enough, my grandkids will know just what to do.